How to be a Good School Business Manager

 

Having followed the steps in my earlier blog “Getting the Right Job”, you’re no doubt now in possession of a lucrative offer of employment and wondering what to do next.  This article is designed as a guide for the first few weeks of your new School Business Management role.

 

  • Preparation
    • As they say in the Army, “proper planning and preparation prevents p*** poor performance”. I’ll let you work out the missing letters for yourself
    • Revisit your research
      • Go through the school website and social media one more time
    • Make household arrangements
      • Arrange childcare and ensure any elderly relatives are looked after
      • Find someone to walk the dog and remember to put out the cat
    • Plan your commute
      • Make sure you know how long it will take to get to your new school during rush hour
      • Work out a backup route in case traffic is particularly bad
    • Try to get plenty of sleep the night before

  • The first day
    • Dress appropriately
      • That outrageous tie or those impossibly high heels will just have to stay in the wardrobe
    • Arrive on time
      • You only get one chance to make a first impression, so set out early
    • Calm your nerves
      • Don’t worry if you are on edge – it happens to even the most confident people
      • Put your fears to the back of your mind: after all, they picked you – so you deserve to be there
    • Don’t take a packed lunch
      • Show solidarity with school caterers by sampling their wares from day one.  If the food is inedible you can always bring in your own food from day two
    • Take a tour of the building – ideally with the Site Manager
      • Find out the location of washrooms and staff areas, as well as emergency exits
      • Learn where refurbishment or renovation work is needed

 

  • Get to know everyone
    • Your Line Manager [usually your Headteacher]
      • Regardless of your plans, follow your manager’s lead.  
      • Ask them how they like to communicate. Don’t assume that this will be in the same way as your previous Head
      • Always accept an offer of help from your boss, even if you don’t think you need it: your new role would soon become untenable without their support
      • To gain trust, find out your boss's problems and help resolve them
    • Your Team
      • Make time to meet your new colleagues either individually or in small groups
      • Share a little bit about yourself but not in too much detail.  You’re trying to build strong relationships, not bore them to tears
      • In return they may offer insight about your Headteacher or others in senior management.  Don’t let the conversation dissolve into gossip.  Well, not much
      • Use these meetings to set out your expectations: let them know what success looks like to you
      • They might have untapped skills that you can utilise
      • You may have been offered the job ahead of an internal candidate. Don’t enter into a bout of one-upmanship with them but prove why you were chosen by setting an example
      • Equally, resist any temptation to criticise your predecessor.  Unless, of course, nobody liked them or they were imprisoned for fraud
      • Operate an open door policy: encourage colleagues to highlight issues that you can address before they develop into problems


  • Know your limits
    • Be realistic about what you aim to achieve, especially in the early weeks
    • Equally, speak up if you feel that your new boss expects unrealistic results from you
    • Always beware of overdoing it.  Take on what you know you can do well, and delegate to your team if you need a hand 

                                                

  • Ask questions
    • You can’t expect to be an expert straight away.  So, if you don’t know something, always ask – it’s not a sign of weakness and, while you’re still in the honeymoon period, colleagues are usually happy to help
    • Keeping a written account will help you stay on track and help reduce stress
    • Being humble is worth a lot when you’re starting a new job.  Nobody likes a know-it-all
    • Think of your new job as the next exciting step in your career path and don’t expect to learn everything at once.  

 

  • Quick wins
    • To help your confidence grow, look for a quick win: find something you can do that delivers positive results
      • In my case, these quick wins were as simple as buying something online for a school that didn’t yet have a credit card, or helping a colleague carry a pile of books upstairs.  The word soon gets around
    • You’ll probably also find quick ways of saving money, like getting a lock for the stationery cupboard door

So, that’s it:  I’ve shown you how to get the right job and what to do in the first few weeks after you have started.  Now is the time to put into action whatever it was that you said to the interview panel that made them choose you in the first place.  Best of luck!

 

 

 

By Peter Neale - October 2017